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Published: 2013/05/13
by Mike Greenhaus

Up All Night With The Flaming Lips

By then it’ll be people won’t even listen to radio, it’ll be satellite radio and Spotify and some other invention that we haven’t thought of yet.

That’ll be it, yeah. I mean, Top 40 radio, nobody I know actually even listens to it. But to go back to your thing, just things keep moving forward, moving on. I mean, to think that – I’m just trying to give a good example of a band in 1995 – like Stereolab to me in 1995 were a radical band for their time. They had keyboards, they were heavily influenced by Krautrock and stuff like that, and that’s oversimplifying, I know, but that was a radical thing. I still have those records, but now you can hear 50 bands doing their kind of trip. They had that kind of influence. And I think there’s a lot of bands that probably love the era of Flaming Lips and that’s sort of their jumping off point. And it just keeps changing, you know? So that’s a good thing, right? I mean, I think it’s all a great thing so it just keeps moving on. And then for us, that’s another reason we feel like, why would we want to make Yoshimi again now that there’s like ten bands that are doing something like that but just more advanced, you know?

Given all these changes in music and the way people perceive and put out music, have you ever thought that the classic album is no longer something that you guys would focus your energy on and that it would be more interesting or not more interesting to put out various other experiments like you guys were doing the last few years? Or do you still have faith in the idea of the album as the album?

I think it’s going back the other way and I only thought about this a few days ago because I really love the idea of The Terror as a whole record. I think it’s one of our best records as a whole LP that you put on and listen to front to back. But I think with all these crazy releases of the last few years it seemed like we were going through this phase where “fuck the long player album,” fuck all that. It’s just crazy like, “Here’s three songs, here’s one song, here’s three songs and it’s in a gummy skull.” Now I think we’ve gone the other way where we were really excited about having a record in a traditional way.

In fact, we actually talked about releasing it only as, if you were going to download it, you had to download the whole thing as one piece of music. We talked about that early on. So instead of individual tracks you would have to purchase – or not even purchase, whatever it was – just download the whole thing. But then we realized that we would look like old assholes that thought we were like Lou Reed or somebody if we did that so we decided not to do it. But to me that told me that we’ve all thought it was a valid enough listening experience to call it a whole record. I mean, you can listen to individual songs but what we recommend and what we’d like you to do is listen to the whole thing.

And then I think for like 25-year-olds, young people – I say “young people” like I’m an old dude, but I grew up when there wasn’t internet. But for young people I think it’s going the other way too. I think ten years ago everyone was so jazzed about iPods and downloading individual songs and that kind of thing, that that was the trend for a while. But I actually think there’s a new trend coming up where young people – [Laughs] I keep saying young people – younger folk, the kids these days, are actually going to start listening to whole records as a normal thing to do. Right now it’s kind of an oddity for a young kid to listen to a whole record, except for hipsters, but I think that’s going to change where people will start listening to whole records again, I really do. And I think the art form will change again when bands figure that out. Instead of putting out records that are all about individual downloads or songs it’ll become like, “Yeah, let’s try to make a whole long player record again.” That’s what I really think, maybe I’m wrong, but that’s what it feels like to me.

I agree and I think that part of it also has to do with the fact that because the CD is moving on its way out, people are now either listening to MP3s or going back to vinyl and having that LP experience where they put the record on and listen to the whole thing.

That’s what I’m doing. I can’t think of the last time I bought a compact disc. For me, in my world, I’m just getting stuff off the internet and I put it on an iPod and I hook it up to these speakers that I have in the living room that are really high and badass speakers, that’s the one thing I do. The second thing I do is I have a shitload of old records, from like 1930’s big band crap to all the classic records of the ‘70s to like the new Ariel Pink on vinyl, and sometimes I listen to my old hi-fi stereo that’s in the living room. There’s no CDs, I can’t think of the last time I listened to a cassette, which I kind of miss, but it’s either MP3 downloads or it’s old vinyl. That’s my listening world. So I think it’s probably like that for a lot of people now. If I want to hear a whole record, like my daughter loves Dolly Parton’s greatest hits from the early ‘70s, we put that on, the whole record plays. My kids know that you can put on a record and play a record. Whereas they’ll have friends over that have never, literally never, seen a vinyl record before. That’s pretty crazy.

Yeah, but I think as you said, it’s kind of coming back in a collector’s way, in a sense.

That’s what I’m saying, I think it’s getting beyond that. I think it used to be a super specific crowd that was buying the vinyl but I think it’s kind of spreading out a little bit where people are getting older, like even someone like my brother-in-law who’s a little older than me, I think he’s actually getting to a point where, “Yeah man, I want to listen to Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl. That would be a cool thing.” And even though he’s not some hipster going to buy obscure Krautrock on vinyl, he’s just a normal dude who’s a doctor, he is still wanting to listen to old vinyl again. So I think it’s kind of spreading a little bit more now, which I think is pretty exciting.

Switching gears to festivals, The Flaming Lips have stopped at so many, do you have a favorite festival memory from recent experience that you’ve either been to as a fan or as a performer?

God, we’ve done so many the last several years. Well we played Bonnaroo 2010 and it was my birthday. And I just quit drinking and everything like two months before so it was one of my first sober shows ever [Laughs] and I was so full of dread all day long. I was walking around the festival, people are loaded at 3:00 in the afternoon, people are walking around with beers, spilling them, there’s pot smoke everywhere, there’s drug casualties laid out in the muddy field everywhere. I was just so full of dread.

But then about two hours before we played, I just got this really great feeling like I don’t know what happened, you know? I just got this feeling I was looking forward to playing to all these people. We got up and we did our show which was just a normal Lips show, and it could have been the most mundane, nothing show but it was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever played. So I kind of think of that from time to time if we’re playing some festival somewhere, because generally I don’t like playing festivals, but that’s such a great memory that I’ll draw upon from time to time to remind me like, “Hey, you still like playing music.”

It’s cool too that you mention Bonnaroo because I always felt that that festival more than any other U.S. festival really has kind of evolved with The Flaming Lips. The first time you guys played you were on the fringes of the whole jamband world, and then obviously performing Dark Side late at night, and watching the different psych bands come through or hipsters rediscover the band after a couple years, it all happened there.

Definitely. Bonnaroo’s a great festival to sort of connect us to because in 2003, like you just said, when we played that, that opened us up to a whole new world that before that we did not know about and they didn’t know about us so much. So that opened up a lot of doors and places to play and people to play to. Then the next time we played in 2007, we had a much bigger show and we had the UFO there and it was just a mega, mega, mega show. Then 2010 was the next time we played, and that’s the show I was talking about, we played our show and we played Dark Side of the Moon all the way through so I definitely see some cool parallels between Bonnaroo and The Flaming Lips for sure.

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Comments

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Sean May 15, 2013, 12:15:04

Awesome interview, thanks so much for sharing. I love that they’re always keeping it fresh, for us & them :)

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